Professor Hermann Parzinger, the Executive President of Europa Nostra has sent a letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama, Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj and President Ilir Meta to express the organisation’s concern over the plans to demolish the National Theater.
In the letter, they stated how they are “sincerely concerned by the alarming plans to demolish the National Theater of Albania, a heritage site of great cultural and architectural importance” to make way for a large private development.
The Organisation sent another letter in July 2018 detailing the importance of the building and calling on them to “use their esteemed position and positive influence to protect the valuable National Theater of Albania.”
They contacted the government again in November, asking them to “abandon plans to destroy this important symbol and to seriously consider the full potential for the cultural and social enrichment that the Theater embodies”.
The group is a part of the pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage and has consultative status with UNESCO and is recognised by the European Union and the Council of Europe as a voice on matters of cultural heritage. The organization’s main goal is to place heritage and its benefits in the mainstream of public consciousness and to making heritage a top priority at European and national levels.
In December, the Theater was shortlisted as one of the “7 Most Endangered Heritage Sites in Europe”. Out of all the nominees, the Albanian government is the only one that is actively trying to demolish a cultural heritage site.
The letter continues that the Theater is likely to be chosen as one of the “7 Most Endangered” due to the “unanimous esteem shown by the Advisory Panel” for the National Theater. Parzinger adds that “none of the 29 heritage sites selected in the past for the “7 Most Endangered” has been destroyed and it would be a novum if such deplorable fate were reserved for the National Theater of Albania.”
The Theater sits on public land which by law, cannot be given to private companies to develop. When a project to build tower blocks and commercial units on that land and the land that surrounds it was announced, the government passed a ‘Special Law’ to circumvent this legal issue.
Veliaj and Rama have both claimed that the Theater has no cultural significance and that plans to demolish it will go ahead regardless of ongoing protests.